Forty is God’s number for testing the human spirit. It’s the limit of man’s endurance, beyond which you are supposed to learn something true. Oh, you know what I mean — Noah’s 40 days and nights of rain, Moses’ 40 days in the desert, Jesus’ 40 days of fasting and temptation. Forty of anything is long enough to be a trial, but it’s man-size, too. In the Bible, 40 years make a span of one generation. Forty weeks make a baby.
Apparently the story goes that we all live our lives moving through forty rooms: my bedroom in the family home, my dorm room, the rooms of my first apartment, the rooms of my first house. This becomes the simple structure of Olga Grushin’s novel Forty Rooms.